A Perfect Proposal

We can’t say it was a “picture” perfect proposal because we’ve never been the best picture takers, and don’t have any from the actual proposal (and very few from the weekend). So, we keep the moment is engraved in our memories.

The surf teamed with leopard sharks as we launched our tandem kayak and paddled out towards the open sea. After an hour or so, we stopped to rest our arms. With the beach in the distance, our only company was a pelican and the stillness only broken by the hacking barks of sea lions. I turned around to talk to Josh and was surprised with a proposal!

How long had Josh been working to set up this perfectly romantic scene? All of 24 hours. But I’ll let Josh tell his own story…

It Starts With the Ring

Shopping for the engagement ring was lame. It was not my favorite thing. Everywhere I went I was upsold. If I had had access, I would have made my own.  I’ve always been creative and grew up going to art fairs with my mom. I also wanted a personal touch. When I was a kid, my dad made my mom a wooden mirror. It was beautiful and fantastic, the perfect gift. That definitely left an impression, so I’ve always believed that anything special in life should be personal.

I thought about finding a hippy jewelry maker but ran into the challenge of where to buy a stone. I still plan to create a ring some day, but didn’t want to delay the proposal too long, so I ended up going corporate, but at least chose something meaningful; the design has the feel of a dihedral with a chockstone).(it’s beautiful and perfect, Aminda butts in to add)

So, finally I can move on to the proposal. It has to be on top of a rock. Where else, dinner? Aminda was obsessed with climbing. She had seen some pictures online of a place in Big Bear, California that looked to have a perfect pinnacle. We made plans to go over Labor Day weekend.  The area turned out to be a little disappointing compared to the pictures. After two days we felt we had fully sampled the routes. And that cool pinnacle? Was really a 20-foot boulder overlooking a parking lot. There isn’t really such thing as a bad summit—  I didn’t need to waste time chasing the perfect towering peak with  breathtaking view – but this one just wasn’t inspiring. So, I started thinking about what else was cool to do in the area. I had really enjoyed my time kayaking in La Jolla Cove and Aminda had never been, so it seemed like the perfect detour.

I had been carrying the ring around all weekend in a zippered pocket and moved it to our daypack for our kayaking. (Aminda definitely noticed how overproctective he was being with the backpack, but didn’t catch on, she was still surprised!) I was kind of winging it, didn’t really know how to do it out there in a compressed space and with Aminda’s back to me. But I for sure wasn’t going to back down— if I didn’t do it on the water, the only other option would be on the beach and that would be way too lame. Plus, I was happy to get the ball rolling on our wedding!


Wedded Wednesday – Our Story Continues

The early evening sun dropped behind Camelback Mountain bathing the boulders in shade and providing relief from the summer heat.

Next to one of those boulders, scattered about the base of the mountain, I found Josh, waiting with a big grin on his face and a warm welcome, even for the girl with the attitude.

Young and in love
Young and in love

Just like the mountain crags were muted by the dusk, my sharp edges instantly softened around Josh, as happens to people meeting him. I quickly knew that I wanted him to be a part of my life. We swapped tales of our shared loves of mountain biking and climbing. He intrigued me with stories of his canyoneering and rafting adventures (activities I hadn’t yet tried, but was excited about) and inspired me through his fledgling business and ministry.

My birthday was the next week. Being a work night, I chose to celebrate with a night time mountain bike ride. Just as I arrived back at my front door, my cell phone buzzed. Josh was calling to invite me on a canyoneering outing. Though we just met, I couldn’t be happier to share my birthday with him.

A couple weeks later, Josh joined me for a night ride. Our canyoneering adventure followed soon after.  He welcomed me into his adventures and we started to create new ones all to ourselves. Five months after meeting, Josh spent Christmas in Oregon with my family. Things were getting serious.

We've come full circle with our bouldering baby
We’ve come full circle with our bouldering baby

I met Josh when I was 27, a time when many college friends had been married for a while and starting families. It was starting to feel like maybe I had been left behind.  But thankfully, I’m never forgotten or left behind – there is always a plan and purpose in place for my life. Even when I almost get in the way of myself. In this case it was a plan very much worth the wait – our life; our adventures together have been bigger than I dreamed.

I’m so thankful for these times in my life where God’s faithfulness shines. Whenever I feel impatient or stuck, I love to reflect back on these stories.

“For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” Jeremiah 29:11

Messy Marriage


Wedded Wednesday (Something Different)

So, this started as a travel blog, but there is much more to our lives than just travel and outdoor adventures. Faith and family are at the center. Especially now that we’re promoting a marriage book.

While we’ll continue to add family travel posts, we’ll also start a series of relationship posts as part of “Wedded Wednesdays.”

This April marks our 10th wedding anniversary, so we have a couple months to share the story of our marriage. Let’s start with how we met. The story our of meeting involves climbing, of course, and starts with a mutual friend, Susan. How Aminda met Susan is a story in itself.

Aminda climbing, 2004

It was the spring of 2004 and time for the annual Phoenix Bouldering Competition, a local rock-climbing event. Because the Comp was held on BLM land about 90 minutes outside of Phoenix, participants and spectators alike would camp out and make a weekend of it. I was going to cheer on some friends and had made plans to camp out with my good friend Kristi and a group that included a guy I had recently dated (but was no longer).  I was not really looking forward to joining them, so I was happy to run into another friend as I drove through the camping area. “Sure, you can camp here with us,” Chris said, before introducing me to his companions,  Dan and Mick.IMG_20160223_202317984

The highlight of the competition was the finale party where vendor booths provided product demos and entertainment.  I’m not a huge drinker, but with the alcohol being so cheap and plentiful, I let myself indulge more than usual.  So much so that I was too embarrassed to visit a booth I really wanted to – “Solid Rock Climbers for Christ.”  Since taking up the sport of rock-climbing two years before, I had yet to meet any climbers who were also Christians. How wonderful it would be to spend time with people who shared both my faith and my favorite pastime.

When the competition ended Sunday morning, Dan and Mick invited me to climb with them. At the crag, we met another group of three– two guys and gal. One of them wore a t-shirt from “Solid Rock climbers for Christ.”  Thank you God for giving me a second chance to connect with them!

Like me, Susan, wasn’t planning on being there that day—she had also met her partners at the event. What a coincidence! I didn’t leave without getting her contact information so we could get together again.

At the time I of course had no idea that this connection would eventually have such a life-altering impact on my life. I love reflecting back on this story and how God was moving. Sometimes when I’m feeling stagnant or getting restless for change to happen, all I have to do is remember stories like these, stories of how even the most mundane circumstances can be aligning to produce greatness.  What about you? Where can you look back and see God at work in unexpected circumstances?

Messy Marriage

Big Wall – Why Bother?

IMG_20140526_073618460_HDRFor Josh’s birthday weekend (which conveniently falls over Memorial Day), he chose to spend two days climbing a 1000 foot sandstone wall known as Moonlight Buttress in Zion National Park. Along the way we camped out on a portaledge.

Why did we do this? Well, the short answer is that it’s just a really cool thing to do. You may wonder if it took us two days to climb because it was extra tall? Well, no, we’ve climbed just as tall routes in one day. So, was the route just so hard that it took us a lot longer? Well, kind of.

Josh on lead
Ryan on lead

Normally, when Josh and I climb we stay on the rock by using only our own hands and feet (a rope and harness provide safety in the event our own strength doesn’t keep us on the rock). This type of climbing is called free climbing. But back in early days of the sport, climbers, without today’s modern gear, had to wear big clunky hiking boots, which limited their free climb ability. So they developed other techniques, which when utilized are called aid climbing. These techniques, while refined, continue to be used today to complete routes that are too difficult or too tall to ascend freely.

Now, there is a wide range of free climbing difficulty. You may have seen a video of a guy named Alex Honnold climbing Moonlight Buttress without even a rope. So why does it take us two days to get up a route that takes Alex two hours? Well, that’s because in all sports you have your professional sponsored climbers and then you have the rest of us. Josh and I are of pretty average ability free climbers.

The Moonlight Buttress route can be climbed without using aid. But aid lets average climbers like us ascend a route we wouldn’t normally be able to. That said, there are actually plenty of available routes that we can free climb that we would stay busy without aid climbing.IMG_20140526_073731567

So, another reason routes like Moonlight Buttress are aid climbed because they are good places for climbers to hone their aid climbing skills before attempting longer, more difficult routes. El Capitan, the prominent granite tower in Yosemite, is one of the best examples. At 3000 feet tall with some very difficult free climbing sections, only two people have ever ascended the entire formation without using some form of aid climbing. El Capitan is such a big undertaking that before attempting it, it’s important for aid climbers to practice their techniques on shorter routes, like Moonlight Buttress. This is why the term “big wall” is used to describe these types of routes.

To ascend a rock face without standing directly on the rock, climbers stand in nylon ladders. Nylon ladders limit one’s range of motion, significantly slowing the speed of ascent.IMG_20140526_073900012_HDR

When Josh and I complete a route in one day, we carry a small day pack with water, snacks and first aid items. Spending the night requires more food and gear than we can carry on our backs. So that requires the additional task of “hauling” gear up the wall, slowing the ascent further, requiring specialize technical skills creating more physical work.

Ryan on the ledge

So… getting back to why we’re doing this. For one, the learning involved is kind of a natural progression for someone like Josh who climbs for fun but also has a job requiring extensive rope skills. However, a lot of what makes free climbing fun, the physical movement and technique, is lost in aid climbing. Aid climbing is also very physical, but it’s the more tedious and laborious type. Which is what Josh wants to get away from when he climbs for fun, and why he’s drawn to free climbing.

Our friend Ryan however, who we climbed Moonlight Buttress with, is a true wall climber. He gets super psyched about the whole process; including the added challenges of problem solving, organization and logistics that go into a multi-day ascent.

Toasting the summit!

There are two things that motivate both of them to put in the extra work. One is the summit. The harder one works at anything in life, the more they enjoy the reward, and that’s definitely true in climbing. Josh has two previous unsuccessful attempts at summiting a wall climb and was ready to put those behind him.

Aminda can’t really answer this question very well. Yet. I was blessed that Josh and Ryan basically let me tag along on this trip. While I had done some basic aid skills practice in preparation to ascend as a second, my limited experience kept me from contributing much to the demanding work of leading and hauling that is required. I had more time during the day to chill out and mindlessly watch the constant circuit of Park shuttle busses below and the endless line of hikers on Angel’s Landing hikers, which we could see down canyon.

Hiking down with some heavy packs. Bummer this came out blurry, you can’t really see Ryan’s haul bag, which towers above his head!

I was excited to experience the other perk of aid climbing — the vertical camping. A good comparison is backpacking. Sure, you may be physically capable of hiking 10 miles in a day, but it’s whole different experience to split that up and spend a night in solitude. (and like in backpacking, we follow basic Leave No Trace principles)

So, after a tiring first day, we arrive at our camp “site” (called a bivouac, or bivy for short) at about 8pm, as the sun was getting low. The last of the Angel’s Landing hikers, are heading off the summit. We spend about an hour setting up the ledges and organizing our gear. (What we don’t do at any point, day or night, is take off our harnesses. At all times we are safely connected to the wall.)

Back on the ground…. Nobody wanted to sit by us on the shuttle bus back to our car. 😉
Love that our weekend was, literally, straight out of an Eddie Bauer ad.

Finally, after a long day of standing in our nylon ladders, we collapse into the comfort of the ledge, eat some dinner and enjoy the experience. Zion Canyon, normally full of thousands of people, gets quiet and still. As the sun goes down the sharp edges of the surrounding towers fade into the graying sky, which fills with stars, the magnitude of which lull you to sleep. Waking up, the world is bright and you fully realize that you just spent the night suspended in space, hundreds of feet off the ground. That’s pretty surreal.

Au revoir, Oh Canada

This week our trip winds down as we start our journey back south. Hard to believe—the last six weeks have gone so fast. The timing is perfect, though—we’re tired. Tired of carrying a pack, tired of hiking up (and down) steep hills, tired of wearing really uncomfortable shoes, tired of tweaking our bodies into unnatural positions. We’re ready for a week of R&R (well… maybe less) until we miss it again.

It’s difficult though. We’ve both really enjoyed Squamish and feel like we’re leaving with too many routes undone. We’ll miss the soft grades–good for the ego. We’ll miss pitches that have you use as many tree roots for holds as you do rock. Just good motivation to return.

And while Canada doesn’t exactly feel “foreign”, we’ll miss buying groceries with loonies and toonies. We’ll actually miss guide books that utilize the metric system, since that’s way more compatible with the ropes which are manufactured in metric lengths. And of course we’ll miss the beautiful scenery and friendly people.

This week the weather jumped from cold and rainy to dry and hot ensuring we got to the crags early to get the most out of the morning shade. Rest days found us doing touristy stuff… going to the farmer’s market, touring the Olympic Park (pretty unmemorable, sorry to report) and hanging out in Whistler Village — a cool outing since there was a mountain biking festival taking place. Which of course had us jonesin’ to get on our bikes again!

This week’s ticks

The Apron, Snake. Cool, wandery line with lots of slabby laybacking.

The Apron, Rock On. Steep and straight up. Nice, shady north-facing route, perfect on a 90 degree day.

Bit of cragging at the Chief Base (cool!), Smoke Bluffs (crowded!) and The Upper Malamute (windy!).

Summer in “Squish”

We’ve settled in to our current temporary home outside the coastal town of Squamish, BC. Or as we’ve affectionately come to call it – “Squish”. With several days of cloudy, rainy weather that seems to describe the landscape of the Pacific Northwest quite well—a groundcover mud, moss, roots and pine needles that takes on a permanent moistness being in constant shade under towering pines. But you sure can’t beat the wonderfully fresh, piney air that results. And after a few days the clouds parted and we could finally see the beautiful mountains surrounding us.

There’s a view out there…somewhere!

We’ve found some creative ways to entertain ourselves while it’s been raining. We join the rest of the fleece-clad crowd at the comfortable, friendly local library to bum the Wifi. We’ve had some wifi issues on this trip with our normal library stops being unreliable. Previously we’ve gotten on-line everywhere from a Jiffy Lube to a Safeway store to the Laundromat.

We’ve watched movies in our tent, soaked our muscles in the hot tub at the community pool and consoled ourselves with large quantities of Nutella. (found here in a large size jar under Walmart’s “Great Value” brand…to our amusement)

Our campground is nestled in the peaceful forest at the base of The Chief, the granite cliff that presides over the valley, reminiscent of Yosemite’s Half Dome, attracting climbers from around the world. This climber’s camp is a hybrid – with walk-in sites that are more spacious and private then Camp 4 (thankfully, we were blessed to snag one of the more secluded ones) but with less amenities than you’d expect at say you’re typical state park campground. Sites are basically limited to a tent pad but there are plenty of communal picnicking areas available for the young, social crowd.

Above the noisy, dirt-bag, “what are you twelve, where are your parents?” crowd, sits the reason we came here—trad climbing on granite.  Perfect cracks lead the climber up granite walls high above the town of Squamish.  Great vistas and excellent climbing creates smiles from ear to ear and some sore feet and hands as well!

This week’s Ticks

The Bulletheads. Cream of White Mice and Xenolith Dance – COWM had an OK first pitch, rest was unmemorable. XD was slabby fun, first pitch had some nice underclings and crimps, second was pure friction.

Cheakamus Canyon. Slipped in a couple nice, long, well-bolted sport routes in the evening once the rock had time to (mostly) dry after morning showers.

Pappoose, Hairpin. Fun, varied route.

The Squaw, Birds of Prey. First 2-3 pitches are really aesthetic cracks. Upper section is OK- pretty dirty. Nice views.

Man vs. Wild

Two factors have most influenced our climbing over the past week – the weather and the mosquitoes. The weather has actually been fantastic… we’ve only had one drizzly day and actually managed to get some climbing in that day on a wall under large imposing roof. The challenge is that the rain is really unpredictable. We’ve been finding ourselves climbing on rainy days and planning rest days only to find that the 60% percent chance of rain never produces a drop. It’s been a bit tricky.

We came prepared to battle it out with the bugs and we have. Deet, citronella, you name it, we’ve got a layer of it covering our skin. It’s been a wet summer up here producing swarms of blood suckers. Josh seems to be particularly attractive to them and I’ve actually read one study that may actually explain this better than him just being so nice and sweet. Mosquitoes may actually be repelled by cortisol, a chemical produced in response to stress. Josh being such a laid back guy probably doesn’t have as much of this natural repellant as some of us more up-tight personalities.

And it’s sure easy to be relaxed around here. We enjoyed a couple days clipping bolts at Lake Louise—the iconic Canadian Rockies image—jewel colored water surrounded by towering peaks, imposing glaciers and endless forests. And hordes of tourists. But we’ve been able to get away from the crowds by enjoying a couple of multi-pitch route, which provide views in every direction.


This week’s ticks

Lake Louise – fun cragging. Routes aren’t all that memorable but there aren’t too many other places you can clip bolts in such a beautiful alpine setting.

Tunnel Mountain; Ballista – great eight pitch limestone route. Short approach, varied climbing, lots and lots of bolts. Just bring your helmet, lots of loose rock.

 Nanny Goat; Beautiful Century – another cool well-bolted limestone route.  More loose rock at the belays. Approach is a big slog.